Addiction is a disease in which a person finds themselves unable to stop using a substance or stop engaging in a behavior. There is no shame in getting help.
However it wasn’t always recognized as a disease - in the past it was believed that an individual could stop if they wanted to, that it was a moral flaw and an individual simply chose to be an alcoholic.
In 1952, addiction became adopted by a major medical publication, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Understanding that alcoholism is a disease - a chemical imbalance in the brain - and not a moral flaw, has been a shift in not only public opinion, but how alcoholism is diagnosed and treated.
More studies show it’s not a simple choice, there is a physical change in brain chemistry after months or years of substance use, so an individual can’t just stop in one day. In fact, in the case of some addictions, individuals shouldn’t stop cold-turkey because detox can be fatal.
As time goes on, public opinion and how society accepts substance abuse addiction ebbs and flows. Moving towards more progressive thought, we know now that no one chooses to be an alcoholic or addicted to substances. It could be a genetic predisposition, the environment, an individual’s chemical makeup, or even lack of support.
What ends up happening after a while with any addiction is the introduction of a substance gives an individual this feel-good effect with dopamine, and the human body gets used to feeling good. When an individual stops, they no longer feel good - causing them to go back and use the substance again. Heroin can actually deplete the happiness center of the brain and it takes a long time to get the brain functioning correctly again.
Substance abuse addiction is becoming more and more accepted as a serious issue and should be treated as a disease. It’s the only disease where you get lectured by your spouse, your friends, or even your employer. If it was a disease like diabetes, others would show more compassion and be empathetic. Until we adopt better ways to help people suffering with substance abuse, it will be a hard road.
There is no shame in getting help.
If you or a loved one need help or want to learn more about treatment options, feel free to contact us at: 630-402-0144